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Pumped hydro will pollute our pristine waterways and the Great Barrier Reef

Updated: May 8, 2023

The Pioneer-Burdekin Pumped Hydro project will have devastating consequences on the region's pristine waterways and the Great Barrier Reef.

The project will involve the construction of two upper reservoirs in Dalrymple Heights and one lower reservoir in Netherdale. The Netherdale reservoir is located in the Pioneer River catchment which flows into the Great Barrier Reef, the largest coral reef system in the world. The Dalrymple Heights reservoirs are located in the Burdekin water catchment which also flows into the Great Barrier Reef.

One of the main concerns surrounding the Pioneer-Burdekin Pumped Hydro project is the risk of cross-catchment contamination. The Pioneer and Burdekin water catchments are two distinct and separate systems.

The proposed project involves pumping water from the Pioneer catchment to the Burdekin catchment, and vice-versa, which could potentially transfer invasive species and pathogens from one catchment to the other.

This could have a devastating impact on the biodiversity and health of the ecosystems in both catchments.

The proposed project also poses significant risks to the water quality and pollution levels in the region. The construction and operation of the reservoirs and hydroelectric power station could lead to the release of sediments, nutrients, and other pollutants into the waterways of both catchments. This could result in algal blooms, fish kills, and other negative impacts on aquatic ecosystems.

Moreover, the Great Barrier Reef is already under immense stress from the effects of climate change, overfishing, and other human activities. The potential pollution from the Pioneer-Burdekin Pumped Hydro project could further exacerbate the challenges the Great Barrier Reef is facing, potentially destroying one of the world's greatest wonders. The reef is not only a natural wonder but also a vital economic asset to the region as it supports a thriving tourism industry.

The Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef

The project also has implications for the traditional landowners of the region, the Yuwibara people, who have voiced their concerns about the impact of the proposed project on their cultural heritage and the natural environment.

There are also concerns that the proposed project may not be economically viable. Some experts have questioned the cost-benefit analysis of the project, suggesting that it may not generate enough electricity to make it economically feasible.

There are alternatives to the Pioneer-Burdekin Pumped Hydro project that could be explored. For example, investing in renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and tidal power could provide clean energy without the negative environmental impacts associated with the proposed project.

In conclusion, the Pioneer-Burdekin Pumped Hydro project poses significant risks to the waterways in Eungella and the Pioneer Valley, as well as the Great Barrier Reef. The potential for cross-catchment contamination, negative effects on water quality and water pollution, and the harm to the Great Barrier Reef are all valid concerns that should not be ignored. The region's traditional landowners, environmentalists, and concerned citizens are all calling for a thorough and transparent assessment of the project's environmental impacts, economic viability, and potential alternatives. It is important that the long-term environmental and economic consequences of the Pioneer-Burdekin Pumped Hydro project are carefully evaluated and weighed against the interests of the region's natural and cultural heritage.


“Pioneer Valley.” Eungella National Park, Queensland Government, 2022,

“Great Barrier Reef.” Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Australian Government, 2022,

“Yuwi People.” Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages and Culture, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, 2022,

“Pioneer Pumped Hydro.” Hydro Tasmania, 2022,

Burke, Paul J., et al. “Assessing the Economic Viability of Pumped Hydro Energy Storage for Combining with Variable Renewables.” Energy Policy, vol. 94, 2016, pp. 148–159., doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2016.02.012.

Queensland Government. “Assessment Process and Guidelines for Assessing Cross-Catchment Transfers of Water.” Department of Environment and Science, 2020,

Waltham, Nathan J., et al. “The Ecosystem Health of the Great Barrier Reef: Where to from Here?” Marine Pollution Bulletin, vol. 153, 2020, p. 110992., doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2020.110992.



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